Just one week after we arrived eleven students and two teachers from Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in England arrived to spend five days at a remote school in the Luangwa Valley. The school was in a poor state of repair, and in particular, the classroom walls were long overdue a lick of paint. So when World Challenge Educational Expeditions asked us to organise a project for one of their teams we immediately thought of Kakumbi School.
To be driven along potholed tracks deep into rural Africa and know you are to be left there for 5 days is a daunting experience but even more so is to be met with 400 noisy kids. As the students arrived they were met with a barrage of cheers from children who hovered between exuberant curiosity and shy terror.
The majority of the team had opted to redecorate a couple of classrooms and quickly cracked on with the cleaning and painting. Two artistic boys had designed a magnificent mural for an exterior wall and provided 3 days entertainment for the children and villagers whom came daily to watch their progress. Much to the amusement of the local boys, a couple of girls turned their hand to carpentry and repaired a number of broken desks.
Rarely visited, this was a new experience for the school and local community but it didn't take long for everyone to overcome their initial shyness and take the group of 18 year olds into their hearts and homes. Dancing and drumming formed most evenings' entertainment and many of the village ladies insisted on teaching everyone how to cook “properly”, the traditional Zambian way.
After 4 days of hard work it was time for a bit of fun and the students organised a final afternoon of fun sport. Wheel barrow and piggy back races are not an everyday occurrence in Zambia but the children proved to be experts and their only problem was trying to stop laughing long enough to win a race. By this time any initial fears of the children were long since gone and they entered into everything with enthusiasm. The shyness had been abandoned and in its place affection that made the younger children content to sit on anyone’s lap.
But it wasn't just a one way cultural experience; both the community and the volunteers all agreed that they learnt much from each other (although I am unsure of the cultural value of the hokey-cokey). Project Luangwa, the villagers, teachers and children were all sorry to see them leave and made it quite clear that they would welcome them all back with open arms.
The team all agreed that whilst it had been a fantastic experience they were very glad to get back to the luxury of hot showers (and cold beer) at Croc Valley Camp. The reasons for their personal involvement were varied but whatever they were there is no doubt that the team made a huge difference to the lives of over 400 children.